Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Prepare for Jesus' Coming: Thoughts on Joseph

As you shop, bake, wrap, party and write Christmas cards, don’t forget the most important thing: Jesus’ arrival as Immanuel: God with us. He wants us to know that he is present during this important time and as we make room for him in our lives, we experience the same kairos discovery that the people did in the first century when he was born!

I’ve been challenged this advent season to read between the lines and enter into the stories of the main characters in Jesus’ story of arrival. I’d like to invite you to enter into them, too, because as we do this, we are challenged in our faith quite differently than if we read the Christmas story as something that happened a long time ago in a far away land.

Who is this man Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father? We know this: he was a carpenter by trade. He was a righteous man, which means that he had a living faith with God, and he sought to live by the laws of the Torah. He had a relationship with Mary’s family, enough to ask for her hand in marriage. We think that he was probably much older than Mary, probably mid to late 20’s, while she was probably mid teens.

So, pretty much, Joseph was an ordinary Jewish man. He didn’t have any quality that made him stand apart from other people of the day; except perhaps that God knew that he could trust him to carry out his faith assignment that came from his major kairos moment!

Imagine being filled with dreams and hopes for a marriage to a lovely young woman, only to have her come to you and tell you that she is pregnant. To make that story even more unbelievable, she tells you that she is pregnant supernaturally through the Holy Spirit, she is carrying the long awaited Messiah.

Imagine looking around for the great people to live this assignment out; only to find your ordinary self!

Enter into Joseph’s head as he hears Mary tell him the news: “I thought I knew Mary. Now she is telling me a ludicrous story, what really happened?”

“What am I going to tell my family?”

“I know that public stoning is the punishment for sex outside of marriage, but I don’t have the heart to do that.”

Joseph wrestling with real life issues, just like we face on a daily basis. His world is rocked; everything he believed about God and the people around him is shaken.

God could have prevented Joseph’s wrestling. He could have told Joseph that Mary was going to share the news of her pregnancy before she told him. But, he didn’t. Why?

This is our life as people of faith.

God allows us to struggle on earth as we wrestle with the big challenges of life because he wants two things to happen: one, that we turn towards him in relationship as the One to walk through it with us, and secondly, that our faith is built in a stronger way as we discover that the Lord really did care and was present all along bringing about his good purposes through the struggle.

It was after Joseph made his decision not to stone Mary, but to quietly divorce her that he had a dream where an angel of the Lord spoke to him and said, “Everything Mary told you is true. Go and marry her. Name the baby Jesus" (which by the way was a very common, ordinary name for the day.)

This is why I believe Joseph was chosen to be Jesus’ earthly father: Joseph woke up from the dream and did what the angel told him to do. That day. Imagine that? He went straight to Mary and married her. That very day.

He didn’t try to rationalize his dream into something different than a very angel of the Lord speaking to him. He didn’t become overwhelmed with the reality that he was going to be the earthly father of the Messiah. He didn’t consider the alienation of their village because they didn’t know the truth. He acted. Quickly. Decisively. Intentionally.

Joseph considered that the Very God who Created the Universe would work out the details. He knew that his part was to obey in faith. He didn’t see past the first bend in the road, but he understood that once he was on the right road, he would be given what he needed on the journey.

This is our invitation too: to walk the journey of faith with the One who loves us and created us for relationship. Immanuel means “God with us.” We are never alone on the journey, even if for a time it feels like we lost our traveling partner.

Walking the journey of faith is very much a timing challenge. We want to see what’s going to happen, when God wants us to see that he is with us. Immanuel.

Our challenge is to trust and believe the One who invites us to the journey. To have the faith of Joseph so that when we know that when we experience a “Kairos Moment” we have the courage to walk it out. Quickly. Decisively. Intentionally.

Watch for your kairos moment this week where God is giving you a space of time for wrestling in faith before he shows you the next step. Remember the gift of timing. It is in that space of not knowing that we can remember the character of the One we follow. We can remember Joseph, who taught us that an ordinary guy can do extraordinary things when act in faith.

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